The last of the holiday petit-fours has finally met its maker and the days of sleeping in late are over. And it was so boring to go to the gym while everybody else was away on vacation. Hello, January.
As a new year begins, our thoughts naturally turn to bathing suit season, just a scant few months away, and we suddenly begin to regret indulging in that plate of gingerbread men. In the war against the holiday bulge, food still has a part to play, but you’ll have to substitute cold-pressed juice for eggnog and kimchi for cookies. It’s time to detox.
Nutritionists will say that there’s no such thing as detoxing your body and they’re right. You can’t just erase impurities from your body by flushing with liquids or foods, because that’s what your organs are there for. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to provide your body with proper nutrients that promote good health, from fresh raw juices to probiotic kimchi.
“There’s no better way to get a ton of fresh produce into your system than through fresh, raw, organic juice,” says Amir, the founder of South Block Juice Co., a “micro juicery” in Arlington, Va. Three-day juice cleanses — basically, drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices three times a day for three days — are a popular option for some people looking to drop excess holiday weight, but Amir says, “The last thing you want to do is jump into a cleanse after a week of partying.” He recommends preparing your body for a cleanse in advance, adding more fresh juice into your daily routine before the cleanse and then slowly reintroducing solids after.
If you’re not into the idea of living on juice alone, Amir suggests “hybrid cleansing” with a combination of raw juices and solids, emphasizing that it’s best to drink juice on an empty stomach, either a couple of hours before or after food. And the juices themselves are hardly like your morning glass of Minute Maid — look for combinations such as carrot, apple, beet and kale; pineapple, fennel and aloe; and cashews, vanilla, cinnamon and dates, which is somehow so decadent and creamy, it could substitute for dessert.
These days, of course, the buzzword in culinary health circles is probiotics, foods that contain live bacteria that can help balance and maintain the digestive system, which recent studies also show may even have a positive effect on anxiety. Of course, Korean staples like kimchi and kombucha, which are both catching on in Western cuisine, are full of probiotics, offering a healthy boost to the immune system while still packed with flavor.
“We need to nourish the good bacteria in our body and naturally occuring probiotics do just that,” says Caitlin Roberts of Number 1 Sons, a D.C.-based food company that makes freshly fermented pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut and is expanding into kombucha production this year after a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage seasoned with ginger, garlic, onion and chili, while kombucha is a sweetened black tea that is fermented with SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). A secondary fermentation is used to make flavored kombucha; some flavors that can be found at local kombucha brewery Capital Kombucha include Cherry Blossom, Mango Chili and Basil Lemongrass, but plain kombucha can also be highly refreshing.
“My favorite plain kombuchas have naturally occurring apple cider notes,” says Roberts. She suggests that new kombucha drinkers might start by adding a shot a day to their diet, saying “Work your way up to a few shots and then a full glass as your body becomes accustomed to the good microbes.”
And if you’re nervous about fermented cabbage, Roberts has ideas about how to get used to it: “I love doing kimchi or kraut with eggs in the morning. I do a sunny-side-up egg on top of a small bed of the fermented cabbage.” If you want to get even more decadent, trying stuffing kimchi into the center of a grilled cheese sandwich or add it to a cheeseburger. So, maybe that isn’t exactly a “detox” meal, but the tang of the kimchi or kraut makes a perfect foil for the richness of melted cheese and you’ll still get the probiotic benefit. No one said being good had to be boring.
South Block Juice Co. is offering a special New Year’s discount to Washington Blade readers: Just enter washblade for $5 off your online juice order at southblockjuice.com.
Kristen Hartke is managing editor of Edible DC and also writes about culinary trends and cocktails for a variety of publications.